The Open Payments database may soon include information about some payments made by medical-device and drug companies to physicians for accredited continuing medical education activities.
The Open Payments database provides detailed information about payments and other types of transfers of value made by industry to physicians and teaching hospitals. It's a requirement that stems from the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, a provision of the Affordable Care Act that aims to make financial relationships between manufacturers and healthcare providers more transparent and deter conflicts of interest. The database went live in September.
The circumstances triggering the reporting requirement for accredited CME payments have been in question since the CMS in July proposed getting rid of what was called the “CME exclusion” in the Sunshine Act. A final rule issued at the end of October affirmed that policy.
But the regulations didn't completely settle the matter. The law said payments made by manufacturers to accredited CME providers (which then pay physicians to lead CME activities) did not have to be reported if they met certain standards, such as the company not being able to choose the speaker. These were referred to as indirect payments
Now the CMS has clarified that the payment must be reported if the manufacturer simply learns the name of a physician paid to speak at a CME event the company funded within the reporting year or by the second quarter of the following reporting year. This includes instances where the manufacturer did not pay the physician directly or select the speaker.
One expert says it is not difficult to determine the names of physician speakers, in part because the accredited CME providers usually promote the events, including the name of the doctor who was hired to speak at the event. The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, one of the largest accrediting organizations, requires that CME programs disclose the names of the physician speakers as well as the sponsors in advance of an event.
This will likely mean that there will be more reporting of payments made for accredited CME activities starting in 2016, said Dr. Daniel Carlat, former director of the Prescription Project at Pew Charitable Trusts. The data would then be released to the public in 2017, the CMS said.
“It would be almost be unimaginable for a case where the company did not learn the identity of the physicians speaking,” Carlat says.
There are certain types of payments that remain exempt from reporting, such as when a company gives an unrestricted grant to an organization, which then has the full authority to decide if the funding goes into a CME program or another purpose.
The CME Coalition, which represents CME companies, said that the new information provided by the CMS this week is inconsistent with the final rule that came out in October. “We believe this creates the need for further clarification,” Andrew Rosenberg, the CME Coalition’s senior adviser, said in a statement.
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